Renato Zanella is a native of Verona, where he received his first ballet education, before moving on to Rosella Hightower’s Centre de Danse International in Cannes, where he completed his studies.
In 1982, he joined the Basler Ballet, then directed by Heinz Spoerli, before the engagement in Stuttgart, which followed in 1985.
After a series of creations for the company (Die andere Seite, Triptychon, Stati d’animo, Empty Place, Black Angels, Man im Schatten and Mata Hari), Marcia Haydée appointed him as Choreographer in Residence in 1993.
This marked the beginning of his thriving international career that led to further commissions for many renowned companies around the world: Les Ballet de Monte-Carlo, the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Vienna State Opera Ballet, Berlin Ballet, Hungarian National Ballet, Croatian National Ballet, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Teatro del San Carlo di Napoli, San Francisco Ballet, etc.
In 1995, he became Ballet Director and Chief Choreographer at the Vienna State Opera, where he stayed until 2005. During his ten-year term, he presented to the audience around forty of his original choreographies, ranging from short pieces to full-length evening programmes (Wolfgang Amadée, Nutcracker, Strauss’s Cinderella, Spartacus) and one-act works (Alles Walzer, Rite of Spring, Bolero, Beethoven Opus 73, Renard and Petrushka).
During these ten years, Zanella transformed the Vienna Ballet Company into a self-reliant ensemble capable of casting its dancers even for the most demanding roles and meeting the challenges of the greatest choreographers of the time.
They thus presented the works by such great choreographers as Kylian, Van Manen, Forsythe and Neumeier, as well as creations by G. Balanchine, Sir Kenneth McMillan, Peter Right and Sir Frederick Ashton. The Viennese audience was also treated to a somewhat more traditional repertoire, consisting of choreographies by Petipa and Nureyev. The ballet lovers especially appreciated Zanella’s ability to balance great classical masterpieces with his original creations and the neo-classical repertory.
He also offered young choreographers from his corps de ballet a chance to express themselves through their work and paid close attention to the training of the next generation of ballet dancers at the State Opera Ballet School, which he led from 2001 till 2005. It is then and there that he started beside the regular ballet education, an intensive and inclusive programme that he has been cultivating to this day, at the national and international level.
From September 2011 till December 2015, he was Ballet Director at the Greek National Opera, from 2013 till 2015, at the Arena di Verona and from September 2016 till January 2018, at the Bucharest National Ballet.
Since February 2018, he has been leading the department of choreography at the Music School of the city of St. Pölten in Lower Austria after the invitation of the City Major to establish a specific education programme for dancers. The Choreo Center Europe is an international educative platform for young choreographers, operating in collaboration with the Europa Ballett and the Academy of Music and Art.
In 2021, General Manager Staš Ravter appointed him as the new Artistic Director of the Slovenian National Ballet with a five-year contract.
In 2009, Zanella branched out into a new field of artistic endeavour by staging operas. His first project Cosi fan tutte, shown at the Attersee Klassik Festival, was highly acclaimed by the public and critics. In 2010, he oversaw the productions of Carmen and La traviata at the International Festival of the Aegean in Greece, Faust and Sicilian Vespers at the Greek National Opera, and The Marry Widow, Cavalleria Rusticana and The Bat that followed in Mannheim, Verona and Tirana, respectively.
In 1995, the Italian dance magazine Danza&Danza awarded him with the title of the Best Italian Choreographer Abroad. In 2000, he received the Gino Tani International Award as Artist of the Year in Rome. 2001, he was given the Jakob Prandtauer Award in St. Pölten. The same year, as well as in 2007, the Danza&Danza magazine acknowledged his work at the Vienna State Opera with the distinction of Best Artistic Director.
In 2001, the Republic of Austria honoured him with the Cross of Honour for the Sciences and Arts. In 2010, the President of the Austrian Republic bestowed upon him the title of Professor for his career and social activities in Austria and abroad.
Renato Zanella defines himself and his work as the result of curiosity and addiction to experiencing new things and meeting new personalities and talents, from which he draws incessant inspiration for his work.
Last updated in July 2021